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Automania
Pyjamarama
Everyone's A Wally

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Herbert's Dummy Run
Three Weeks in Paradise

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by Oliver Queen - April 1, 2013

Characters

Wally Week

The unassuming hero of the series. Wally was created by Mikro-Gen Ltd's sales manager Paul Denial, who had come up with the idea of having a typical northern, flat cap wearing Average Joe as the character for Chris Hinley's in production game Automania who then drew a rough sketch of the character, and so the big nosed, beer bellied everyman hero of the series was born. Wally used to be a mechanic and eventually ended up as builder despite being pretty poor at DIY. In British slang a 'wally' is an idiot.

Wilma Week

Wilma is Wally's shopaholic trophy wife and mother to little Herbert. Blonde and with a liking for thigh high boots and tight sweaters she's only playable in Everyone's a Wally but also appears in Herbert's Dummy Run and Three Weeks in Paradise.

Herbert Week

Wally's troublesome young son, he was first created as special kind of avoidable obstacle for Everyone's A Wally, where he was the only character who couldn't be played. He made up for this by being the only playable character in Herbert's Dummy Run. His name is a play on the slang 'little Herbert' meaning a little scamp or ruffian.

Tom, Dick & Harry

Wally's three mates. Tom is a green haired punk mechanic, Dick is a bobblehat wearing plumber and Harry is a hippy electrician. Tom, Dick & Harry is a placeholder term meaning anybody or everybody dating back to at least 17th century England!

Pyjamarama (ZX Spectrum)

Three Weeks in Paradise (ZX Spectrum)


Automania - ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 (1984)

European ZX Spectrum Cover

You couldn't get away with this now, not even in the Xbox Live's indie games scene. Automania is a total of two screens in size. By contrast Manic Miner, a game released a year before had 20 and Wanted: Monty Mole, a game released the same year, has over 30. Hell Donkey Kong, released back in '82 at least had an even four. But no, Automania has just two. Of course you have to play these screens 11 times and each time the item and platform placement of the second screen is different so I guess you could pretend there was 32 screens - and yet it was a successful game. It could have something to do with the fact that the game is perfectly programmed and the controls were spot-on. It could have something to do with the graphics being big and detailed for the time and the system. It could have something to do with Mikro-Gen being good friends with Crash Magazine, who had a good influence over how the Spectrum scene spent their money. Or, maybe, it could have something to do with the game being so bloody hard that you never got far enough to notice you were playing the same two screens. I'm sorry, that's hyperbolic, it's not that difficult once you work out the timing of the two crazy tires but it is very challenging.

The gameplay can best be described as thus - imagine if you were doing a fairly simple jigsaw puzzle but before you could place each piece you had to play a level of Donkey Kong in a set time. It's not as annoying as it sounds even if Wally is a little slow on his feet. The puzzles in question are a series of cars - starting with the ludicrous Citroën 2CV and moving up from a Mini Coop, a Jeep, a VW Beetle, a Landrover and eventually up to a prestigious Rolls Royce. The car's progress is shown on the left screen and the parts are collected on the left, a screen made up of ladders, platforms, possessed tires and falling debris, which despite my complaining does re-arrange itself per car changing the challenge. A challenge that is already pretty challenging from the start, the game requires a great sense of timing and being able to use that great sense of timing as fast as possible - your time, measured in an energy bar at the top of the screen, runs down fast and will only get faster.

Automania was identical on the Commodore in every way except that it didn't have the ZX Spectrum's colour clash, both versions sold well enough to allow Chris Hinely to work on a sequel...

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Mikro-Gen

Publisher:

  • Mikro-Gen

Designer:

  • Chris Hinsley

Genre:

Themes:


Automania (ZX Spectrum)

Automania (ZX Spectrum)


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Comparison Screenshots


Pyjamarama - ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Windows, Macintosh (1984)

European ZX Spectrum Cover

"A classic game from the '80s period of gaming, if this was on the NES thay'd be making documentaries about it."
- an anonymous review summary from Lemon64

I include that quote only because it sums up nicely my feelings on this game, and modern view of the whole of the '80s gaming scene in general. Anyway, lots of games get called 'genre defining' and some are, Pyjamarama was one of a much rarer breed - it was a genre creating game. The genre in question was the Arcade Adventure genre, which is today pretty much dead but was, along with difficult platformers and text adventures a staple of the 8-bit PCs and the precursor to the still popular point 'n click adventure games which would be pretty much invented the next year with Enchanted Sceptres on the Mac and would come closer to the Arcade Adventures Pyjamarama pioneered with Maniac Mansion in '87 which would become the blueprint for all point 'n clickers to come. Maniac Mansion's gameplay shares a lot of similarities with Pyjamarama - a game that was released two years earlier by one 19-year old from Middlesex about the nightmare of a mechanic from Up North. If I sound proud, I am.

The gameplay is thus - instead of just collecting items for points or to progress, you have to collect items from one area and take them to another to solve whatever problem is impeding your progress there, effectively turning item collecting into puzzle solving. The overall goal in Pyjamarama is to wake Wally Week up from his nightmare and get him to work on time and in order to do this you have wind the alarm clock, but of course you'll have to go all round the houses (well, house) to do so.

This game is just creepy. If you think that things like atmosphere (and creepiness) can't be conveyed or felt with primitive graphics you haven't played Splatterhouse, you haven't played Uninvited and you haven't played Pyjamarama. You play a disproportionally small Wally, still in his nightclothes, walking around his house but everything is wrong, things are too small, things are too big, inanimate objects are alive and there are strange little creatures. This isn't uncommon in platformers of adventures of this era but here they're given context - if you've ever had a dream in your own house like this you can relate easily and put yourself into the situation. In fact that is the whole reason for the scenario. The ZX Spectrum would only allow two colours in an 8 x 8 pixel square so if you made something to scale, thus small, it would either be monochrome or unintelligible. By being a dream, Hinsely could create big colourful objects and have it actually explained away by the in-game story. The levels feel like a dream too, things are... causally wrong like they are in a dream (one floor has you walk out into space and then back into the house again), the black background necessitated by the ZX Spectrum's graphical limitations make it feel like night, and the game doesn't flick or flip from on screen to another, it dissolves. Oh and you can walk into one room and play Space Invaders - with you as the ship.

There are odd issues, the inventory can only carry two items at a time and there is a rather unintuitive section that means you can only slide down the banisters for the helmet if you're the ignition keys. What's more your steps are monitored, sort of making it a miniature golf version of a score attack game, where the objective is to keep your numbers as low as possible. Regardless the game got rave reviews and sold incredibly well. The money from it allowed Mikro-Gen to employ more programmers, among them were Raffaele Cecco (who would create some of the best games on the 8-bits like Cybernoid, Stormlord and Exolon) and a Irishman named Dave Perry who converted Pyjamarama to the Amstrad CPC. Perry would work on the rest of the Wally Week series in one form or another and would go on to create nothing things like Earthworm Jim and MDK.

While the ports are unremarkable, almost the same really, there is two versions of the game. One has the piece of music 'Popcorn' while another has an original composition. This is true of both the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 versions at least. The Pokes (a kind of cheat code entered using the 8-bits' keyboard) was also changed so presumably other alterations were also made besides the difference in music. A fan remake was released for free by programmer Roberto Granado in 2004. The remake is largely cosmetic, for even though the graphics and music are updated, the core gameplay remains the same.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Mikro-Gen

Publisher:

  • Mikro-Gen

Designer:

  • Chris Hinsley

Genre:

Themes:


Pyjamarama (ZX Spectrum)

Pyjamarama (ZX Spectrum)

Pyjamarama (ZX Spectrum)

Pyjamarama (ZX Spectrum)


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Additional Screenshots


Comparison Screenshots


Everyone's A Wally (A day in the life of Wally) - ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC (1985)

European ZX Spectrum Cover

European Commodore 64 Cover

ZX Spectrum Rerelease Cover

The final of Chris Hinley's Wally Week games is so quintessentially British if you were to smash the tape bulldogs, Union Jacks and episodes of Coronation Street would spew forth. With his concept of an arcade adventure down from the last game, the only natural thing (according to him) for Hinley to do was expand on the characters you could play as. The result is the invention of Wally's support cast and the first arcade adventure to feature multiple playable characters.

Originally advertised (in Pyjamarama amongst other places) as Life of Wally, Everyone's A Wally features a day in the life of Wally, his house wife Wilma and his three mates. The overall puzzle is to retrieve the five letters of the world 'BREAK' and take them to the safe. In order to do this you must swap between characters and complete their various tasks, which in turn will allow you complete other tasks as other characters, at the game's start only Dick can complete his working day without first playing as another character. Dick must fix the fountain in the park and the leaking gas pipe in the sewer. Wally must build a wall (he's a builder now, not a mechanic, that may sound odd but this is 1985 in Thatcher's Britain - Wally and co are probably the only people employed at all) and fix a crane at the docks but cannot fill his bucket to mix the cement until Dick has fixed the fountain. Wilma must take books back to the library and pick up a parcel, but cannot exchange her parcel at the docks until the crane has been fixed by Wally. Tom must oil the shopping trolley and retrieve the flat car battery before Harry can fix the electric supply (by playing a parody of Asteroids, following on from last game's parody of Space Invaders) and charge the battery then Tom must fix the fork lift truck. Finally Wally must ride the fork lift to retrieve the final letter. The gang must then take the letters to the bank in the correct order. Attempting to do the wrong thing with the wrong character or carrying the wrong items will open the ground and you'll have to complete fast paced button mashing mini-game to escape the shark that lives in the Sewer, a parody of Track & Field - hidden arcade parodies became the thing for Wally Week games, technically this mini-game is based on Daley Thompson's Decathlon, an 8-bit equivalent of Track & Field starring a British gold medallist. To further complicate matters the characters move about the screen in an basic form of A.I. (revolutionary for it's time and system) going about their daily life and moving items so you have to be careful where you put things when swapping items (they won't move them if they're on the Supermarket counter or in the Butchers, Park or School) all the while avoiding The Nasties (enemies) and Herbert.

Everyone's A Wally

Fan opinion was a little divided. The game was far more complex than the popular Pyjamarama and there was much more to do and while most of the item solutions were fairly logical or based on wordplay (you'll need the monkey nuts to enter the monkey cage in the zoo) some complained that it wasn't the pinnacle of the series that it clearly was and too complicated. The multi-character gameplay wasn't repeated in the series, though nowadays it's commonplace to have to switch through multiple characters with everyone from Sonic the Hedgehog to The X-Men doing it without worrying. Critical praise was more constant however and the game received its usual completely similar ports to the Commodore 64 but this time the game was totally remade for the Amstrad with lovely new graphics, though the downsize meant signs had to be cut down, making locations a little harder to tell apart.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Mikro-Gen

Publisher:

  • Mikro-Gen

Designer:

  • Chris Hinsley

Genre:

Themes:


Everyone's A Wally (ZX Spectrum)

Everyone's A Wally (ZX Spectrum)

Everyone's A Wally (ZX Spectrum)


View all "Everyone's A Wally" items on eBay


Additional Screenshots


Comparison Screenshots


Trivia: Everyone's A Wally - The Song!

Ask anyone who played the game way back when and you'll more than likely hear about the 'surprise' song that came on the tape's B-side - 8-bit PC games came on cassette tapes, identical to those music was released on and if you put the tape in your stereo the B-side (the side without the game) would play a song sung by British actor and would-be '60s heartthrob Mike Berry. Berry had had a couple of hit singles in Britain, mostly notably Tribute to Buddy Holly but was mostly known to the UK Public for his role in popular sitcom Are You Being Served? where he was brought in to replace Trevor Bannister's character - with an identical character, probably in the hopes the viewers wouldn't notice. The song (available below) was a humorous recounting of the game's plot but it actually served a clever money saving purpose. Games were at the time on both sides of the tape and would need to be turned over, but if side A was damaged or corrupt side B would not work and customers would send their tapes back to the publishers requesting a new one and publishers would oblige (trying doing that with Nintendo or Microsoft) as a loss to themselves, so in an attempt to avoid loosing the money from this, it was decided to just stick the game on one side and pop a song on the other.

Everyone's A Wally (ZX Spectrum)


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Automania
Pyjamarama
Everyone's A Wally

Page 2:
Herbert's Dummy Run
Three Weeks in Paradise

Back to the Index